US investigators say pilot error caused Kobe Bryant helicopter crash
The helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and six other passengers was probably caused by the pilot becoming disoriented after flying into clouds, investigators said Tuesday.
Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the chartered Island Express helicopter, probably suffered “spatial disorientation,” the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said.
Also likely contributing to the January 26, 2020 crash in Calabasas, California was “self-induced pressure” on the pilot to complete the flight for his celebrity client, the NTSB said.
The NTSB also cited “inadequate review and oversight” of safety management processes by Island Express as a probable cause of the crash but did not find that the helicopter had experienced any mechanical problems.
Bryant, 41, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six other passengers when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a fog-shrouded hillside west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.
The NTSB said weather conditions were marginal on the morning of the flight but acceptable for flying under visual flight rules, where a pilot stays out of the clouds and maintains eye contact with the ground.
Shortly before the crash, the pilot said he was climbing to 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) to get above the clouds but the helicopter was actually in a steep left turn and descending rapidly, NTSB investigators said.
While the pilot perceived that the helicopter was climbing it was actually descending, they added.
“We are talking about spatial disorientation where literally the pilot may not know which way is up or down, whether he or she is leaning left or right,” NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said.
In its findings, the NTSB said “the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s decision to continue flight under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions which resulted in the pilot’s spatial disorientation and loss of control.”…..read more